Deep Dive: Getting to know the UCLA Bruins
A week after facing the nation’s leader in rushing yards, Oregon’s defense will face another big challenge this week: this time through the air. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen enters the game ranked third in the nation in passing yards with 2,354.
“He’s a really good quarterback and he’s smart,” Oregon safeties coach Keith Heyward said. “I think he does a very good job of his pre-snap reads of the secondary and [knowing] where he’s going to go with the ball.”
This is the second time in three weeks that Oregon will face a quarterback ranked within the top five nationally for passing yards. The Bruins are also ranked second nationally in passing offense; however, UCLA struggles running the ball. They’re ranked 103rd nationally and average just 127 yards per game.
The Bruins enter Saturday at 3-3, with all three wins coming at home. They’ve lost three of their last four games, and last week, Rosen had his worst statistical game of the season. He was intercepted three times and threw zero touchdowns in the loss to Arizona.
It wasn’t much better for UCLA’s defense. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate ran the ball 15 times for 234 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Running back Nick Wilson ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Of all 129 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, only one has been worse than UCLA at stopping the run.
Head coach Willie Taggart announced that Braxton Burmeister will start against the Bruins, despite his struggles in the two games.. Last week against Stanford, he completed just 3-of-8 passes for 23 yards, and he has thrown two interceptions in each of his starts.
“If there was one thing that I would like Braxton to do, it’s take care of the football, and everything else will take care of itself,” Taggart said. “You’ve got to be smart with the football, take care of it and get it to the guys that can make plays for you.”
If Burmeister can find the same openings running against the Bruins defense that Tate did, it could be another way for the freshman quarterback to build his confidence.
The officiating crew for Saturday’s game better have their flag-throwing arms ready to go, as this game features two of the most penalized teams in the nation. The Bruins have been penalized an average of 9.33 times per game, which ranks 125th out of 129 teams in the country. Oregon ranks 128th, being penalized 10.14 times per game.
“This team is going to find a way to bounce back,” Taggart said after the loss to Stanford. “We have good kids that work their tail off. This is the first time that we’ve had back-to-back losses, and we’ve got to find a way to stop it.”
Follow Zak Laster on Twitter @zlast3445